yonts2015updateKENTUCKY (2/14/16) — A Hollywood star with a message about child literacy brought national attention to the State Capitol last week as education-related legislation and other proposed bills cleared hurdles in the Kentucky House.

Child literacy has long been a priority in Kentucky through early childhood education programs like Save the Children, Head Start, Reading Recovery and the Kentucky Reading Project, and there have been successes. Actress Jennifer Garner, an ambassador for Save the Children, and the nonprofit's Action Network President Mark Shriver visited the Capitol last Tuesday to ask that lawmakers continue to fund child literacy programs in the next budget cycle and build on those successes.

Child literacy is only one concern we lawmakers have as we continue to receive committee testimony in advance of a budget vote in coming days. Another concern is workforce development, with lawmakers in the House voting unanimously last Tuesday for a resolution that would establish a task force to help possibly realign the state's workforce development system. The Kentucky Workforce Development Task Force created by House Concurrent Resolution 97 would make recommendations no later than this Dec. 1 for legislative action by the 2017 General Assembly.

The focus of the task force would be on workforce education funding which is now splintered among many different state and local agencies, according to the legislation. Having a comprehensive plan for the spending of billions of dollars provided for workforce training in the state each fiscal year would help the state "adequately train and retrain Kentuckians to enter or re-enter the workforce," per the resolution.

Workforce development is critical in this state where job losses since the Great Recession have hurt many industries, including Kentucky coal. Coal remains an economic driver-the fossil fuel brings more than $528 million in revenue to the Commonwealth, according to the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development-but is struggling to survive. To help out, the House voted 89-0 on Feb. 5 in favor of a bill that would allow Kentucky coal mining and processing companies to qualify for state tax incentives now offered to other industries.

Under House Bill 202, sales and use tax incentives and state income tax incentives offered through the Kentucky Enterprise Initiative Act and Kentucky Business Investment Act that are now off-limits to the state's coal industry would be made available to the industry. The legislation, now in Senate committee, would also require the state Cabinet for Economic Development to promote increased export of Kentucky coal.

Campaign finance took center stage on the House floor last Monday when a bill to double individual campaign contribution limits in Kentucky passed by a vote of 71-22. HB 147 would double the limits of direct contributions to candidates to $2,000 as of this July and double the annual limit on individual contributions to a party's state executive committee to $5,000, among other changes. Additionally, the bill would allow corporate contributions to a political party's building fund and permit married couples to write a single check for a contribution up to the individual limits of each spouse. The bill is now in the Senate for its consideration.

Other bills that cleared House committees or the full House last week and continue to make their way through the legislative process are:

  • HB 265, approved by the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee last Tuesday, would allow capital projects (usually building projects) of public colleges and universities that are funded by the institution to be exempt from the state budget process. The exemption would apply as long as the projects are authorized by the college or university's governing board and the Council on Postsecondary Education and presented to a state legislative oversight committee. The bill now goes to the full House for a vote.

  • HB 316, approved by the House Education Committee last Tuesday, would clarify what constitutes bullying under state law. It would define bullying as "any unwanted verbal, physical or social behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance and is repeated or has the potential to be repeated." The definition would apply if the behavior occurs at school, on school busses, at school events or in ways that disrupt the education process.

  • HB 309, passed by the House by a vote of 83-11 last Thursday, would allow government and private entities to enter into public-private partnerships to fund major projects and services at the state, local government and transportation level. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

We reach the midway point of this 60 legislative day session this week, with much work remaining. Please continue to stay up-to-date on all legislative action of interest to you during the 2016 Regular Session by logging onto the Legislative Research Commission website at www.lrc.ky.gov or by calling the LRC toll-free Bill Status Line at (866) 840-2835. To comment on a bill, please call the toll-free Legislative Message Line at (800)372-7181. To reach me directly, send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (502) 564-8100 and ask for my office.

SurfKY News
Information provided by Brent Yonts

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